19 years ago this week, Apple took the wraps off GarageBand – a revolutionary digital audio workstation that sped up the democratization of the studio recording experience and gave everyone the chance to record their own music from the comfort of their own home.
It was a landmark occasion to say the least, and while numerous DAWs had been available prior to its release, the music recording process was by and large restricted to those with access to purpose-built recording studios and other high-cost resources.
As such, GarageBand marked a big step forward for aspiring musicians and bedroom producers looking to kickstart their careers. Indeed, Apple and its products have been intrinsically linked with the rise of home recording, and while it’s easy to take the impact they’ve had for granted, there’s no denying it all started with its flagship DAW.
To be fair, attendees at the Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco on January 6, 2004 clearly knew Apple meant business – not just due to the forward leap GarageBand represented for the music industry, but because of who they recruited to help launch it.
Joining Steve Jobs on stage was none other than John Mayer, who demonstrated the DAW’s impressive potential by picking up an electric guitar – a Jimi Hendrix Monterey Fender Stratocaster, to be precise – to test out some tones. Oh, and he flexed his instrumental versatility by playing some keyboard, too.
Mayer, fresh from releasing his sophomore studio album, Heavier Things, joined his friend Jobs for the latter’s annual keynote speech, and assisted with the GarageBand demonstration by first showcasing the sounds of the software’s virtual instruments.
After using the keyboard to make his way through various keyboard, electronic jazz bass, choir, brass and drum sounds, Mayer then switches to his Strat – a Jimi Hendrix Monterey model – to duly deliver a range of silky fretboard noodles. To be fair, the stock tones all sound pretty good to our ears, especially for a first-generation amp modeler.
To truly put the early software through its paces, Jobs and Mayer flick through the various amp models on offer, with the latter riffing through Derek and the Dominos’ Layla, The Police’s Message in a Bottle and some Hendrixian E7#9 chords to show off GarageBand’s sound catalog.
And, just to hammer home the point that GarageBand really was ahead of its time in terms of tones and recording capabilities, Mayer also solos over a composition of his own making.
Around this time in 2019, John Mayer took the opportunity to reflect upon the impact both the software and the late Steve Jobs had on the music industry, writing, “I helped Steve Jobs introduce GarageBand to the world. Since then, it’s brought music composition and production into the lives of millions of people who might have never had access to it otherwise.
“Looking back on it, I believe this was a kind of altruism on Steve’s part, offering the app for free on Apple devices and eventually for all,” he continued. “He loved music as much as anything else in his life, and GarageBand was Steve’s way of giving people the tools to discover the music within themselves. I once knew a man who changed the world.”
Mayer’s relationship with Apple wasn’t just a one-off, either. One year after the DAWs launch, he returned to the stage with Jobs once again at the Macworld Conference & Expo to demonstrate some GarageBand updates.
Not only that, but Mayer also been vocal about his own personal affinity for Apple products on numerous occasions. In fact, it’s his love for Apple’s sleek design approach that initially helped him design his PRS Silver Sky electric guitar.
Speaking to Cory Wong last year, Mayer revealed how the aesthetics of brands such as Tesla and Apple influenced the Silver Sky’s modernistic design, and how such companies are helping to keep the guitar aesthetic “clean”.
Likewise, he once revealed he related to the color of his Space Grey laptop – no doubt an Apple iMac – more than any other aesthetic, which is why he’ll never release a more vintage-minded sunburst Silver Sky.
Jobs and Mayer's GarageBand demo back in 2004 was a genuine milestone in the history of music recording, and though it's nice to look back and praise Mayer's playing on the occasion, the biggest takeaway here is that, without the software, the world of recording might not be what it is today.